A Sense of Danger in the Air

Science Signaling  06 May 2008:
Vol. 1, Issue 18, pp. ec169
DOI: 10.1126/stke.118ec169

Particulate airborne pollutants, such as asbestos and silica, are notorious for their negative effects on health, including lung inflammation and cancer, yet information on how such substances exert their effects is lacking. Dostert et al. (see the Perspective by O’Neill) reveal that a multiprotein complex known as the Nalp3 inflammasome can signal exposure of cells to internalized particles of asbestos and silica, which leads to the activation of a potent inflammatory response. In the absence of Nalp3, mice responded less vigorously to asbestos, supporting the idea that this inflammatory sensing complex plays a key role in the response to respiratory pollutants.

C. Dostert, V. Pétrilli, R. Van Bruggen, C. Steele, B. T. Mossman, J. Tschopp, Innate immune activation through Nalp3 inflammasome sensing of asbestos and silica. Science 320, 674-677 (2008). [Abstract] [Full Text]

L. A. J. O'Neill, How frustration leads to inflammation. Science 320, 619-620 (2008). [Summary] [Full Text]